Emulsions for Africa

Following our ‘reason to be’: “Making Life Easier in Africa”, we have been looking closely at the potential for the broader use of emulsions in our road industry; particularly for enabling the application of chip seals in our winter months.

Why ‘for Africa’?

In South Africa, to express that there is an abundance of something, we say there is enough ‘for Africa’. Bituminous emulsions offer numerous possibilities for innovative solutions in the construction and maintenance of road surfaces, particularly in our African setting.

1. Creating Capacity

Well formulated and stable emulsion road binders create greater scope for more contractors to enter the road industry; especially opportunities for smaller-scale road maintenance and repairs. The capital required for the equipment to produce hot surfacing products and maintain the roadside capacity to keep the products hot is beyond most smaller contractors.

2. Keeping our people safe

Safer working than with cut back and hot binders, especially when these are sprayed very hot and under pressure. In line with the much-needed drive to improve safety standards and working conditions for road surfacing personnel in Africa, significantly lowering storage and application temperatures, removes many of the inherent hazards of using hot and cut back binders.

3. Easier to Transport

Can be conveyed over long distances and stored without heating. Again, when emulsion binders are well formulated, they are storage stable over longer periods and maintain their original properties, avoiding the oxidative breakdown that hot binders experience through prolonged heating in contact with air.

4. Simple Application

No need to dry and pre-coat stones with bitumen for surface sealing applications. The extra cost and equipment required to pre-coat stone and the need for keeping the aggregates dry are unnecessary when emulsion binders are used in chip seal applications.

5. Work the whole year

Emulsion based chip seals can be applied in a wider weather window than hot seal binders. An associate expressed this well as: ‘all conditions in which the washing would dry’. The dry winters with sunny days and road surface temperatures rising above the limit of 10oC, in most parts of the country, are ideal for spraying emulsion binders. With year-round chip sealing, smaller contractors could justify purchasing equipment and training personnel, where in the past they would have been standing for four months over our winter, seal-embargo period.

How do we leverage these?

  • As with all technological advancements, the first step is highlighting to the various local market players, the state-of-the-art in the rest of the world.
  • Conduct an assessment of the local market situation to identify the gap between international and domestic best practice.
  • Investigate the route to upgrading local best practice and demonstrating to the industry the cost benefits of the change required to move to new products and application practices.
  • Orchestrating the change is the greatest challenge. The investment by suppliers in formulation development and production plant upgrades, in time for the expected demand from road surfacing design practitioners for the new offering, must somehow coincide. This series of blogs is intended to raise the awareness of the new possibilities that emulsions offer in our context and to create a desire for change.

Our part in the change

For an emulsion to have the optimum balance of properties, a high level of technical expertise and versatile lab and plant equipment is required. This is the domain of the binder producers, with the support of experts from the raw materials and emulsion plant suppliers.

We offer a unique suite of in-house emulsion expertise, the supply of high shear emulsion and polymer modified bitumen mixing plants. From our years of experience, we have developed a deep understanding of the requirements for producing high-performance bituminous emulsions for road surfacing.

For More Information

If you are interested but don’t know where to start, please Contact Us. Otherwise, please check back soon, as we expand and dive deeper into the topic of “Emulsions for Africa”.

By Alan Wills

Specialist in Applied Emulsion Chemistry. Owner and operator of Alan Wills & Associates (since 1994).

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